Connect with:
Tuesday, October 23, 2018
HomeTop NewsGovernor signs capital budget, leaves Juneau Access in place

Governor signs capital budget, leaves Juneau Access in place

VETOES VITAMIN D STUDY, KNIK ARM CROSSING

Gov. Bill Walker signed the 2019 capital budget and, reversing course, left intact the one big shovel-ready project that Alaska has: Juneau Access.

Now, all the project needs is a “yes” from the governor to proceed with building the road.

Hawkins

Juneau Access is the 50-mile road north to Katzehin, where ferries would help connect travelers between Haines, Skagway, and Juneau by a day boats that would make numerous trips throughout the day. The ferries that were designed for the project are being built in Ketchikan; one is nearing completion this month.

The road project, decades in the making and a target of environmentalists, is a priority for the Alaska Committee, a group of Capital City civic activists trying to improve access to Alaska’s capital. It’s also a priority for the City and Borough of Juneau and has been for years.

Groups like the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council have tried to drive a stick into the spokes of the project for years, and had the governor’s ear, since he was elected with the help of strident anti-road types.

But a recent poll by the McDowell Group shows that a majority of Juneau residents now favor the project. Juneau’s economy, although better than the rest of the state, has flattened and the population is aging. Young people are leaving. A road could invigorate all of northern Southeast Alaska’s economy.

The Juneau Access project has passed all environmental reviews; 90 percent of the funds to build it will come through the federal government. The entire project is expected to cost over $500 million, and with an Alaska-friendly president in the White House, and Republican-controlled House and Senate, the road project has never been closer.

Funding is not the issue, proponents say. The project just needs a governor who is willing to say “go.” Some aspects of the project can be funded years down the road, such as parts of the new ferry terminal.

Two years ago, Walker chose the “no build” option, which made downtown Juneau rejoice, and many in the community despair. Lawmakers around the state favored the project, even though it wasn’t in their districts: Rep. Lance Pruitt of Anchorage was a vocal supporter, as was Sen. Anna MacKinnon of Eagle River.

Then, last year, Rep. Sam Kito and Rep. Justin Parish of Juneau and House Democrats stripped Juneau of $21 million from the project and sent it to other communities, such as Skagway and even in the Arctic. That action robbed the project of the matching funds needed to win federal funds.

This year, Kito and Parish were overridden, and the Legislature returned the money to Juneau.

Walker could have vetoed those funds. But there’s nothing so compelling as election-year realities to slap a politician upside the head. Unions that represent the building trades met with the governor numerous times over the past year and a half to try to persuade him to put the money back. A veto would have signed his political retirement papers.

The governor is not likely to change his mind on the “no build” option, but having the funds set aside for the road will be important to the next possibly pro-road governor.

NO VITAMIN D STUDY FOR SEATON

In the operating budget signed today, the governor vetoed a pet project of Rep. Paul Seaton, chair of House Finance, which produced the budget: Seaton’s infamous $500,000 Vitamin D study went away with the stroke of a pen.

Seaton has advocated for more Vitamin D in Alaskans’ diets, but opponents of the spending, including Rep. Charisse Millett of Anchorage, said that during tight fiscal times, having the State in a lead role on a Vitamin D study doesn’t make sense, particularly since there are literally dozens of studies of Vitamin D and its role in northern climates.

NO FUNDS TO CONTINUE KNIK ARM CROSSING

Gov. Walker also vetoed a small amount — $2.5 million — for the continuation of the study of the Knik Arm Crossing. The funds were not enough to move the project substantially forward in the coming year. The project is a 1.74-mile bridge across Knik Arm that would create safer access between two of the most populated areas of Alaska: Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley.

What’s this? Juneau warming to a road?

 

Donations Welcome
Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Access to Juneau has always been an issue for Alaskans on the highway system. A road would not change access for the rest of Alaskan s, who would have to fly or boat to our Capital City. Even a drive to Juneau from Anchorage would make one pause, flying is still much cheaper.
    So who is this access road for? About 5-7 % of the total population of Alaska? Juneauites.
    Knik Arm Crossing sure was needed when 44% of the population of Alaska was impacted by an oversized ATCO trailer. That s right folks, the South Central Transportation system is so fragile that all it takes is a man made accident to shut down our life line transportation routes. How many times will the Seward Highway be closed because of accidents this year.
    ( Seward Highway was closed last night)
    The ignorance and contempt by Walker and the Juneauites is beyond the pale.
    First order of business for our next State leaders is to veto the joke road into the dark hole called Juneau.

    • Joe, it is our duty to save the Holy City of Juneau.
      .
      As our state government grows bigger and more caring, our lobbyist-legislator team may find they have to go somewhere without the fourth estate spying on their every move at the airport.
      .
      Of course money is no object, (and let there be no heresy about mismanagement, cost overruns, kickbacks, shoddy construction!), but productive Alaskans should be ready to pay a modest, sustainable tax for this necessity, just in case Standard and Poors threatens our credit rating again.

      • Is your cheek sore from your the strength of your tongue Morrigan? 😀

        • Try to be a team player and this is what I get.

          • All I can say is … LOL 🙂

  • Here is Greg Erickson’s take on Juneau Access Rd., back a few years: http://juneauempire.com/local/2014-11-25/my-turn-road-makes-no-economic-sense

  • It doesn’t surprise me that the Governor needs friends in Juneau, he’s not finding a lot in the rest of the state. This may be due, in part, to his shutting down of everything BUT the $40 (million, billion?) stop, wait, go across the Glenn in Muldoon.

    Two representatives had to sit down with the Governor and spend significant time explaining (I’m not sure why he didn’t believe his DOT team) that accident rates confirm, despite the Safety Zone designation, that Knik-Goose Bay Rd. from Wasilla to Port MacKenzie is the most dangerous road in the state (some say deadly).

    It’s also fairly common knowledge that government should not shut down, but start up, infrastructure projects in a recession. Even President Obama knew that tidbit of economic support. So, killing jobs and construction companies, except for little and deadly roads, by killing infrastructure projects is another blind spot for this Governor.

    Oh, but wait, the current Governor DOES want a pipe line that is even less cost-effective than when he started due to all of the large natural gas projects newly entering and going to enter the market in other countries very soon. He expands on that one-track focus by inviting a country that Venezuela, Australia, Canada and other places have found to be very bad large-project partners.